'Eternal Beauty' Review: Schizophrenic Sally Hawkins steals the show and her fragility will melt your heart
Craig Roberts has surely taken a step up with his new feature film, 'Eternal Beauty'. The film narrates the story of his protagonist Jane and the difficulties and challenges that she faces in her life because of her mental health. The film will release on Apple TV on October 2, 2020. Right from the on-point locations to an award-winning lead and strong supporting actors, including David Thewlis, Alice Lowe, Billy Piper and Penelope Wilton, the film looked like a power-packed deal.
As the journey of a schizophrenia patient unfolds in the film, Roberts has neither demonized those with the condition nor has he patronized them as suffering martyrs. Multiple award winner, Sally Hawkins steals the show with her performance. Every line she said and every tear that rolled down her cheeks got us into the "feels".
“What if there’s no such thing as happiness, only moments of not being depressed?” a paranoid Jane says in the film. Jane tried to explain her paranoid schizophrenia to a bemused acquaintance, by saying, “It means I think you’re out to kill me, as opposed to schizophrenic, where I’d be out to kill you.”
The film has proved to be one of the most beautiful, charming and emotional stories about mental illness ever, put on screen. As we see young Jane being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, she goes through a breakdown after being stood up at the altar by Johnny. After taking several visits to the doctors and shock therapies, the film shows Jane living in her apartment alone. Even when she is massively dosed with medication, she still is a very witty and sharp-eyed person, as she notices that there is something wrong about Tony (Paul Hilton), her sister Alice's (Alice Lowe) husband.
In between her episodes, there are moments of happiness for her as she spends time with her family and her sister but soon after these happy days with them, she decides to stop taking the medication, which results in unwanted side effects, due to which she starts seeing huge spiders crawling everywhere. In a hospital waiting room, she meets Mike (David Thewlis), who is an aspiring musician and is suffering from serious medical issues and in no time they fall in love with each other. But soon her evil sister Vivian (Penelope Wilton) tries to create problems between the two, after which Jane once again goes through a mental breakdown.
At a Q&A session for the London Film Festival screening caught for this review, Roberts spoke about how Jane's character was inspired by someone in his own family with a similar mental profile and how he wished to pay tribute to this “superpower” of his beloved relative instead of stigmatizing her condition. His attention to detail can be noticed in little aspects of the film.
When it comes to the color palette of the film, the out-of-focus shots, the subtle palette of colors in costumes and sets, especially Jane's home, help one to relate to her shifting moods and enhances its theme. It seems as it were Roberts was trying to show the frenzied activity in Jane's mind.
Even though Hawkins has given many great performances in her past films like 'Vera Dake,' 'Happy Go Lucky' and 'All or nothing', we still believe that her character as Jane was the most beautiful one. The entire cast gave a stellar performance in the film, but Hawkins ensured that the comedic edge doesn't deflect compassion away from her character. She brings complexity and pathos to her character of someone who is struggling to make sense of it all and fighting back against attempts to subdue her, resulting in a thoroughly enjoyable performance.